Many look at Ft. Lauderdale and see a bland concrete wasteland north of Miami, but not Mathew P and Eric Michael K of the JAMS DJ Network. They see a city on the verge of a cultural revolution -- if it wants it.
"I think there is an opportunity, especially in this particular area in Ft. Lauderdale, to be able to expose a lot of people to music they may not have heard of before," said Eric, who founded JAMS along with Matthew in 2010. They spin records around town as Esoteric and Damask respectively, alongside buddies including Kristof Ryan and Mike Diaz of Millionyoung.
For years, they've worked to build a scene in the 954 that fosters a love for the more progressive side of dance music. It's been a struggle, but they think their upcoming performance as part of Saturday's Block x Blog, taking over the Revolution Live! complex, is a sign of change.
"Block x Blog is a good example," Eric said. "I think it's making a huge statement to the entirety of Ft. Lauderdale. That particular day is a day where people are going to be out in general, so them witnessing that 'hey, these people we've seen in a small little corner in that small bar, now they're on stage at Revolution, they're on stage at America's Backyard, they're on stage at Green Room, and they're doing it all together.' I think that reflects on what everyone's been struggling for for years now, which is the ability to come to a unified statement of saying, 'Hey, there is more going on than just what's on the surface.'"
JAMS will be joined by local acts including Afrobeta, Jacuzzi Boys, The Goddamn' Hustle, Black Label Society members, and their homies Millionyoung among others. The event is hosted by Subculture, who aim to foster a real sense of community between artists, musicians, fans, venues and everyone in the Ft. Lauderdale area ready for something
exciting and home-grown.
It's a big step forward. According to Matthew, it's like nothing Ft. Lauderdale has ever seen.
"Saying 'exposing people to this new music' sounds presumptuous, because we're assuming people haven't been. But being in this area, we have to assume that because we never hear current sounds or a very particular future sound being pushed," Matthew said. "People are in their comfort zone. Anywhere in Ft. Lauderdale you go is essentially going to be some kind of top 40 venue and these club promoters kind of playing it safe."
But Eric thinks events like Block x Blog show those old days are numbered.
"I think they're more ready now than they ever have been," Eric said of local music fans. "Looking at the progression of dance culture and nightlife in general, people have taken more of a liking to more submersive stuff. They want to see what else is out there besides just what's on the radio or what's on a commercial."
Dance music's popularity has grown exponentially in the past few years nationwide. These young recruits, who used to laugh at EDM precursors, now devour any tracks they can get in their gloved fingers.
"EDM has become more mainstream of a thing. People are willing to go beyond traditional electronic music which is amazing," Matthew said. "Growing up and just learning about music, it was called 'techno' back then, and it was shunned completely. Now, you never hear anyone say "techno." People are more open to different kinds of electronic music now that they realize it's a serious medium of entertainment."
Matthew thinks the key to developing this into something really substantial is a devoted and determined scene working together.
"There are a lot of enthusiastic people that really want to start something," Matthew said. "There are plenty of people involved personally with music. Maybe they just want to be an event coordinator, or they want to be involved somehow, and they have the ambition. It's just going to take, I feel like, a lot of trial and error on their part to actually see a real scene come to fruition."
But with groups like Subculture coming around and events like Block x Blog, that kind of teamwork and unity is exactly what's brewing.
"If things stay on pace, as they have been for the past year or so, I think some good things are going to happen," Eric said. "I've seen a lot of changes. There was a time when you would never hear of an indie dance party downtown. There was a time when we were not welcome downtown, period. So getting to the point where you're going from those dive bars, and now you're playing in the biggest venues downtown, I would say now more than ever is a time where people have the opportunity to really get involved and make a simple choice."
That choice is about taking the time to seek out good music, good art and all of the hidden gems Ft. Lauderdale's bubbling underground have to offer. Of course JAMS is stoked on the growth of EDM, because they're all about dropping future beats. But they realize the cultural revolution of Ft. Lauderdale goes beyond bpm, and is really about something much larger.
"Ft. Lauderdale is essentially a blank canvass when it comes to pioneering any sort of new movement in this scene, new ideas, or fresh things with art," Eric said. "I've seen some artists come out of Ft. Lauderdale that have amazed me. I've seen some amazing things come out of this city. We could potentially possible be on the most underrated little cities in Florida."
Block x Blog. With Ex Norwegian, Holy Ghost!, Afrobeta, Jacuzzi Boys, MillionYoung, and others. 8 p.m., Saturday, April 20, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Visit subculture.us or jointherevolution.net for tickets.